OPED: Local dental practice urges stronger smoking law

SUBMITTED BY: Antonio Martinez

Dear Editor,

I have worked with my father in his Lakewood dental practice most of my adult life. We provide bi-lingual services, which provides us contact with many Latino/Hispanic residents of Lakewood. In addition, I work closely with other Latino health professionals and community leaders to provide outreach and education to ensure that the highest quality health services reach Latinos

Currently I am partnering with City Councilman Pete Roybal and other Lakewood community leaders to host the Dia de los Ninos Health Fair at The Link Recreation Center on April 28th which will bring free and low cost health screenings and resources to our community.

I am writing this letter because I am deeply concerned that the Lakewood City Council seems to be ignoring the voices of the community that are calling for protecting kids, families and workers from secondhand smoke. I have been involved with Citizens for a Healthier Lakewood Coalition for two years because of the damage that smoking is doing in my community. I work with people every day who are trying to quit smoking. They tell me all the time that smoking is everywhere in their neighborhoods and it is so hard to quit when you can’t get away from it. Our kids see it in parks, playgrounds, bus stops and outside every building. It looks normal to them and we have to change that.

The Spanish Speaking Latino Community is very good at protecting our families from the dangers of secondhand smoke. Only 13 percent of Spanish Speakers smoke which is below the state average of 18 percent but 26 percent of our English speakers smoke. One of the biggest risks for us is at work. We are much more likely to work at places that allow smoking indoors or on outdoor patios like restaurants and bars. Eighty-two percent of Hispanic adults believe smoking should not be allowed in any indoor work areas, but nearly twice as many Hispanics than whites work in environments that allow smoking.

Our Coalition is working hard to convince the Lakewood City Council to protect these workers and the families that want to eat outdoors in the Spring and Summer. Seventy-seven percent of Hispanic adults believe that smoking should not be allowed at all, in restaurants.

Martinez Dental is proud to be an active partner with the Citizens for a Healthier Lakewood and supports all of the recommendations that the Coalition made to City Council which would make all businesses, patios of restaurants and bars, parks, playgrounds and public transit stops smoke free and keep smoking 25 feet away from all doorways of buildings.

We do what we can at our office to connect people with information about free and low cost help to quit smoking and chewing tobacco as a part of the care we provide, but this is everyone’s problem. We can just do so much.

We’ve heard from the city council that Lakewood business owners don’t want laws that limit smoking. Well, we are a business and we, along with other small businesses support stronger laws. As a business in this community, we feel that people need to be heard. It is government’s job to protect the health of the community, and to ignore the real damage that secondhand smoke does to all of us, is negligent.

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